Assembly Election

Arlene Foster says DUP will never agree to Irish language act

DUP candidate Carla Lockhart takes a selfie with party leader Arlene Foster (back left) after her speech at Brownlow House in Lurgan, Co Armagh, to launch the party's campaign for the Assembly election 

ARLENE Foster has launched the DUP's election campaign with a vow that her party would never agree to an Irish language act.

Signalling that the DUP will primarily target Sinn Féin - and Gerry Adams in particular - in the days between now and March 2, Mrs Foster said on Monday if there was to be an Irish language act there should also be a Polish language act, as those speaking the latter outnumbered Gaeilgeoirí in the north.

Referring to Sinn Féin demands for legislation, she also said: "If you feed a crocodile, it will keep coming back for more."

Republicans initially refused to be drawn into a war of words with the DUP leader.

Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O'Neill said her party was "not interested in negativity", while Gerry Adams quipped: "See you later, alligator".

Launching the DUP election campaign at Brownlow House in Lurgan, Mrs Foster told an audience of MPs, MLAs and MEP Diane Dodds, that the party was "in for the fight of our political lives".

She blamed Sinn Féin of sparking the election not because of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal but due to "the failure of the republican project".

"Sinn Féin thought they could win elections all the time but the last two elections proved them wrong," she said.

"2016 has come and gone without a united Ireland and no-one should underestimate the impact on political nationalism of the Brexit vote."

In one of many references to Gerry Adams, she claimed Ms O’Neill had been installed by the Sinn Féin leader and would be instructed by him.

Mrs Foster warned that Sinn Féin could emerge from the election as the north's largest party and subsequently "capture the first minister’s post".

Highlighting her opposition to prosecutions of members of state forces in Troubles cases, the DUP leader also said she would "sooner be out of power for a generation than in power on the backs of those who gave everything to serve our community".

On the RHI debacle, she acknowledged that "mistakes have been made and things could have been handled better".

However, Mrs Foster insisted she had done nothing wrong and that the public inquiry would clear her name.

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy claimed the DUP leader's remarks about an Irish language act were attempt to deflect public attention away from the RHI scandal.

He described it as "yet another example of the absolutely disgraceful arrogance of the DUP".

"Time and time again the DUP have shown nothing but disrespect to the Irish language and identity. These comments further highlight the contempt in which the DUP holds large sections of the community."

Mr Murphy said the British government committed to an Irish language act in the St Andrews Agreement and Sinn Féin was determined to see that honoured.

Earlier, at her party's candidate launch in Belfast, Ms O'Neill declined to be drawn on Mrs Foster's comments.

"We are not interested in negativity," she said.

"We have launched our candidates here this morning on the basis of three key principles - respect, equality for all, and integrity in the political institutions.

"That's our job of work, that's what we are concerned with."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt claimed the the DUP was engaged in "a massive game of distraction".

"The DUP and Sinn Féin have been in government for 10 years and people are still being called back to the trenches. We want partnership government," he said.

Assembly Election

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